Nelson Ronsheim (1905 - 1981) attended the Cincinnati Art Academy while still in elementary school, perhaps the youngest student ever to do so. After working a short while for an advertising firm, at the age of 23, Ronsheim set out on his own as a commercial artist.
Though skilled with pen and brush, Ronsheim gravitated to photography as a means of artistic expression. From as early as 1923, he mastered the use of a complex camera to record life in Cincinnati. After acquiring additional photographic equipment in 1938, Ronsheim embarked on an intense effort to capture on film, the familiar scenes of his native city. As a student of history, Ronsheim appreciated the transitional nature of the late 1930s and sought to preserve in photographs the city as he knew it, anticipating that these images would become more fascinating with time.
This period of intense photographic activity lasted just four years, brought to an end by World War II's rationing of fuel and raw material, yet Ronsheim created roughly 800 images of Cincinnati during this time.
Ronsheim entered photographs in the Master Photo Finishers of America annual contests in 1939 and 1940 and each year received several awards. Ronsheim was mechanically minded and his tinkering resulted in a number of patents. He also authored and illustrated several children’s books.
A lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ronsheim encouraged appreciation of the city’s beauty in features large and small, both natural and man-made. A script he wrote near the end of his life to accompany a photo presentation begins:
“Herein speaks the camera, in phrases bright and terse; it supplants the illustrator’s brush, his picturing to disperse, and supplements the author’s pen, for better or for verse.”
© CINCINNATI - A GLIMPSE FROM THE PAST